Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hundredfold Promise: Mark 10:30

In my time at a Pentecostal church there was an inordinate emphasis on money. Usually it was emphasizing transferring money from the people's wallets to the pastor's. In the process of this transference, many Scriptures were ripped out of context in a weak attempt to pry as much money from the people. Most of these Scriptures were called "promise" Scriptures to those who both paid tithes and gave additional free-will offerings.

One of these "promise" scriptures used at nearly every offering was Mark 10:30 (ESV):
...who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands....
Now I want you to notice the two uses of ellipsis, the three periods (at the front of the quote), and four periods (at the end of the quote). The ellipsis is a literary device used in quoting to show that the author has not made a full quotation, but rather has taken a phrase or sentence from the full quotation. Now there is nothing wrong with the use of ellipsis per se, unless the author is taking the partial quote out of context from the full quotation to make a point that the quoted author never intended. This sort of misquotation is exactly what we have with the use of this verse as a proof text for prosperity teaching.

This verse, when examined in its context has nothing whatsoever to do with financial prosperity! Let's look at the entire context of Mark chapter 10 (ESV) from which this verse is taken:
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and(W) knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" 20And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth." 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have(AD) treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
 23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" 27Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." 28Peter began to say to him, "See, we have left everything and followed you." 29Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
 As we can see from the full context that surrounds the verse in question, the verse is not talking about financial prosperity, but rather what it is required from a disciple of Jesus. Jesus requires from those that want to follow Him is the abandonment of comfort and security for the sake of following Jesus and believing in the Gospel. Further, the hundredfold promise is in no way a reference to financial prosperity, rather it is referring to a whole new community that would be created with the birth of the church which a new believer would then belong to. The verse refers to a multiplication of relationships-many of which will become stronger than blood relationships (cf. Mark 3:31-35; Acts 2:41-47; 1 Timothy 5:1-2).

Not only is a new family promised, but also "persecutions". This is not an idea that Prosperity teaches want to speak about. They never seem to talk about this aspect of Christianity. Instead the Prosperity teachers teach that only good things will happen to the new believer. Sadly, when bad things begin to happen to the new believer, the new believer does not know how to process these bad things. Instead of knowing that bad things are normative, and may even be part of their character growth, they operate out of a religious fear of God. This fear is the old religious idea that the human needs to please God through his/her life. This thought then brings on an unnecessary guilt that the new believer is not pleasing God, because if she had been these bad things would not be falling on her. Sometimes the guilt gets so great that they believe that God is not happy with them. Some reach levels of despair so deep that they attempt or commit suicide.

The Bible does teach us about finances. It teaches us a balanced view in which we do not believe that wealth is a sin (e.g., Abraham, Job or Solomon). The Bible, however, does condemn the love of money (Luke 16:13; 1 Timothy 6:10; Hebrews 13:5). Love of money is an unhealthy fixation with money. The love of money indicates that the person who has it is actually living with a temporal perspective rather then an eternal perspective.

Scripture also takes a dim view of those who desire for wealth (1 Timothy 6:9). Paul also noted that the love of money would be a sign of the end times (2 Timothy 3:1-9).

Jesus also warned that a man life is not about what he has (Luke 12:15). Jesus also taught his followers to regard money as a tool for the building of His kingdom. In other words, that priority of the believer is not of this earth, but are instead focused on a heavenly perspective (Matthew 6:19-20; cf. John 6:27).

According to Jesus, the priority of the believer is living for God (Matthew 6:33). When this is done, then God will provide His followers with what they need, not what they want. Further, these gifted necessities, are not to be viewed as ours, but instead are to be offered back to God with an open hand and with the attitude that whatever God wants back, it is His, and given back to Him with a joyful disposition. Our attitude towards finances and material things does not end there. Paul tells us that a Christian should be content in both good times and bad times (Philippians 4:12-13).

In conclusion, Christians must be discerning when it comes to anything that is taught by a pastor or teacher. As a teacher myself, I am not threatened by students that verify what I am teaching with the word of God. No one, not even the Apostle Paul, is above that (Acts 17:11). Therefore, I plead with my readers to search the Scriptures and make sure that the things you are being taught is so.

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